The Fort Hays State University softball team split a pair of conference games with Northeastern State on Friday and was victim to a two-game sweep by Central Oklahoma on Saturday.
Paxton Duran set the tone early in Game 1 Friday by recording all six outs over the first two innings by strikeout on her way to a career-high 15. A solo home run off Duran in the fourth was the only run scored by either team through six innings.
Tori Beltz tied the game with a solo home run of her own in the top of the seventh. Samantha Villarreal followed with a single and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Duran. A grounder to the right side off the bat of Courtney Dobson pushed the runner to third, then Mackenzie Villarreal stepped up with a pinch-hit RBI single to the right side.
Duran did not allow a baserunner in the seventh and ended the game with her 15th and final strikeout. She allowed just one run on three hits and a walk, moving to 8-10 overall on the season.
After FHSU and Northeastern played to a 3-3 tie through 3.5 innings, Kayce Wooldridge and Duran settled into a pitching duel once again, this time as relievers. Both teams went scoreless for four innings before Northeastern State broke the tie with a walk-off single in the ninth inning.
Wooldridge took over in the fourth for a struggling Delaney Gray, who allowed three runs to the Tigers through 3.2 innings of work. Kylie Strand tied the game with a double in the fourth. Wooldridge hit a batter to load the bases but got a ground out to end the inning.
Duran took over at the start of the fourth inning for Carrie Clarke, who threw the first three innings and allowed three runs. Duran worked a 1-2-3 fourth, but had to work around base runners in the fifth through eighth innings to keep the RiverHawks off the board. In the ninth, she could not work around a leadoff double before Jessica Boone delivered a walk-off single to end the game.
Samantha Villarreal had two RBI in the game, providing the first two runs for the Tigers in the game. She had an RBI single in the first and a solo home run in the third. She finished 3-for-4 at the plate.
FHSU put runners in scoring position in the fifth, sixth, and seventh, but could not find a way to push the go-ahead run across. Duran moved to 8-11 with the loss after just one run allowed in 5.1 innings of relief. She allowed seven hits and a walk, while striking out four. Wooldridge allowed just three hits and a walk with six strikeouts, holding the Tigers scoreless in her 5.1 innings of relief.
The Tigers got three runs on the board in the first inning of Game 1 Saturday, started by a two-run homer by Beltz. Dobson scored Villareal on an 0-2 single to put FHSU up 3-0.
UCO got on the board in the third on a sacrifice fly by Carli Jones, scoring Morgan Heard. The next pitch from Duran resulted in a two-run bomb off the bat of Lexi Watson to tie the game at three.
The Tigers moved ahead, 4-3, their next time at the dish thanks to an RBI single from Villareal. UCO’s Tori Collet responded with a solo home run to tie the game in the bottom of the fourth.
Fort Hays State went down in order over the next three innings and stranded two UCO runners to send the game into extras. The Tigers went 1-2-3 in the eighth, as well.
UCO advanced runners to second and third with one out in the eighth, only to leave both stranded and send the game to a ninth inning.
Krier reached base on a UCO fielding error to start the ninth, eventually making her way to third off a ground out and pop fly. Villareal came to the plate with a chance at a go-ahead RBI, only to send a ground ball to the shortstop, ending the inning.
Rachel Harper started with a single for UCO and advanced on a bunt by Heard. Ally Dziadula followed with a RBI double to the outfield on a 2-2 count to end the game, 5-4, in favor of the Bronchos.
Krier led the Tigers with three hits, while Duran (8-12) gave up nine hits over 8.1 innings in the losing effort.
Fort Hays State recorded just four hits in Game 2, an 8-0 loss to Central Oklahoma ended via run rule in the sixth inning.
The Bronchos held a 4-0 advantage after two innings and added runs in the fourth and fifth, plus an additional two in the sixth. Clarke (4-8) allowed 14 hits and all eight runs over 5.2 innings, walking four and striking out just one.
The Tigers moved to 13-20 overall and 7-9 in the MIAA. FHSU returns to the diamond at noon Saturday for a road meeting with Missouri Western.